We have all attended meetings that seem to go and on with no apparent end in sight. In your own company, you have probably experienced some of the worst examples... from meetings that continued long after their productive purpose had ended to “quick catch-ups” that devolved into two-hour-long chaos.
It really is the mark of an undisciplined organization to tie up their people’s time in unproductive or continual meetings. But, there are always going to be times when the only way to build a consensus or foster connection is through group interaction.
Below are seven basic pointers of meeting management that will ensure your group is making the most use of your organization’s time when it is necessary to meet.
Distribute the meeting agenda, with supporting documents, before the meeting occurs. If people have not read that information before the meeting, you may need to defer any action for a future meeting. Editor’s Note: At TOPS, the agenda lives on a shared Google Doc that everyone can access before—or after —the meeting. Don’t ask us for any other tips regarding meetings: we’re reading this article and taking notes ourselves!
Utilizing a Consent Agenda is a mechanism to avoid wasting time on routine or trivial items; basically, it is a list of regular, low-impact business items that aren’t likely to need discussion. State in the distributed agenda that issues on the Consent Agenda will be approved without any discussion unless a particular item is brought up by a committee member.
Set time limits for each agenda item. If discussion goes on longer than the allotted time, it should be tabled for another time. It is
crucial to identify who will lead the discussion on each item.
Any meeting lasting longer than 60 minutes has diminishing returns because most people’s attention span is no longer than that (including mine.)
Using Robert’s Rules of Order (a form of parliamentary procedure) will save you considerable time for formal meetings—such as required annual meetings or Board of Director’s meetings— where official minutes need to be maintained. For less formal organizations, it may be helpful to write your own rules of order to help give your meetings some structure.
If there are controversial items on the agenda, connect with key influencers before the meeting to know where they stand on an issue. Be sure that you know where where your key office leaders stand on any vote or discussion so there are no surprises.
Know when the meeting is over. Some people will always want to stay around and talk. Make sure you have clearly adjourned the meeting beforehand so that others may leave if they prefer.
This may seem like more structure and standardization than is necessary for your business, but we promise: following these seven guidelines will pay dividends in the long run by maximizing your most valuable resource: your peoples’ time.
Running a successful meeting is one measure of an organization’s efficiency. Because if you can’t run your own meeting efficiently, what does that say about how well the rest of your organization is functioning?